Cubic wins Navy UAV data link subcontract

Northrop Grumman Corp. has tapped Cubic Corp. to provide the tactical common data link for a new unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) currently under development.

Cubic of San Diego won an $11 million subcontract from Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman to supply the data link for the RQ-8B Fire Scout Vertical Takeoff and Landing UAV.

Cubic's data link, which consists of air and ground data terminals, will serve as the wireless connection between the Fire Scout and control stations aboard Littoral Combat Ships.

Northrop Grumman holds a contract with the Naval Air Systems Command to provide four Fire Scout UAVs. The Fire Scout is scheduled to be operational in 2008. To meet that schedule, the data link will be integrated into the Fire Scout beginning in March 2007, with a testing period to follow.

The Fire Scout can take off and land on any ship on which helicopter or aircraft can land. The UAV can watch for threats within 150 nautical miles of the ground control station, and accurately designate a target and direct weapons to it. In addition, the Fire Scout can deliver supplies to troops behind enemy lines without endangering the lives of manned helicopter crews.

Cubic's high-speed data link will give the Fire Scout a large amount of bandwidth to transfer information from the Fire Scout's video, laser and infrared targeting sensors as well as its laser designator and range finder.

The RQ-8B Fire Scout is the first Defense Department UAV to incorporate Cubic's tactical common data link, company officials said.

Cubic has about 5,950 employees and annual sales of $722 million. The company ranks No. 77 on Washington Technology's 2005 Top 100 list of federal prime contractors.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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